Concerns have been publicly raised by Pope Francis as well as Church leaders from Poland, the Nordic countries, and around the world.
German organizers have rejected all interventions, instead pushing to install a permanent German Synodal Council to oversee the Church in Germany and implement controversial changes.
Nonetheless, Zen notes, the pope “never ordered that this process in Germany” had to stop, and that his speech to the German bishops during their 2022 ad limina visit — typically published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano — remained undisclosed.
Instead, the German bishops announced in March they were moving forward with their plans.
Given the carefully planned and executed developments in Germany, Zen’s letter warns of attempts to depart from the traditional ecclesiastical order, suggesting any apparent democratic reorientation is coupled with proposed revolutionary changes in Church constitution and moral teachings on sexuality.
Zen also notes the precipitous decline in the number of Catholic faithful in Germany since the start of the Synodal Way, stating: “The Church in Germany is dying.” He parallels this collapse with the decline of Catholicism in the Netherlands.
Avoiding Anglican strife
Drawing another parallel, Zen writes: “I think it is not out of place to mention here the great schism that is threatening the Anglican Communion.”
The Anglican Communion is a worldwide fellowship of 85 million Christians, united by historical ties to the Church of England — and currently facing profound internal divisions over issues such as same-sex marriage and the ordination of people identifying as LGBTQ+ to the clergy.
Zen notes that this has led to some Anglicans calling on their head, the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, to repent. Otherwise, they will “no longer accept his leadership,” the letter adds.
Zen refers to the Anglican development as a stark reminder of the divisive paths the Catholic Church could tread if led astray by misinterpretations — or worse, manipulation — of synodality in the pursuit of a questionable agenda.
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An agenda and foregone conclusions?
Within this context, the cardinal’s letter accuses the Synod Secretariat — the Vatican office responsible for organizing the Synod on Synodality — of questionable conduct.
“The Synod Secretariat is very efficient at the art of manipulation,” Zen writes, adding: “Often they claim not to have any agenda. This is truly an offense to our intelligence. Anybody can see which conclusions they are aiming at.”
Zen draws upon biblical examples to highlight that change should be reflective of a larger divine schema rather than arbitrary alterations. He emphasizes a continuous, harmonious development of doctrine, in the vein of St. John Henry Newman, rather than any insidious shift in narrative, particularly on sexual morality.
Zen writes that the organizers, while emphasizing the need to “listen to all,” are focusing on one group in particular: “Little by little they make us understand that among these ‘all’ there are especially those whom we have ‘excluded.’ Finally, we understand that what they mean are people who opt for a sexual morality different from that of Catholic tradition.”
A synod radically changed